Emotional processing and therapeutic change in depression : A Case Study. / Pinheiro, Patrícia; Mendes, Ines; Silva, Sara; Gonçalves, Miguel; Salgado, João.

In: Psychotherapy, Vol. 55, No. 3, 09.2018, p. 263-274.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Patrícia Pinheiro
  • Ines Mendes
  • Sara Silva
  • Miguel Gonçalves
  • João Salgado


The association between clients’ higher capability of emotional processing and good therapeutic outcome has been consistently observed in different therapeutic approaches. Despite previous studies that have reported an association between emotional processing and pre- to posttherapy change in symptoms, the session-by-session relation between emotional processing and therapeutic change needs further research. The current study explored, in a good-outcome case of depression, the session-by-session longitudinal association of the level of emotional processing with (a) clinical symptoms and (b) type of emotions aroused (adaptive or maladaptive). Using a time-series analysis, we observed a strong negative association between the intensity of clinical symptoms and the level of emotional processing in the same session, r = −.71, p < .001, but a nonsignificant association between emotional processing and the symptoms in the preceding session, r = −.37, p = .101, and the next session, r = −.29, p = .180. During the increase in the level of emotional processing, we observed a change in the type of emotions aroused, from maladaptive to more adaptive. The results support that emotional processing is associated with therapeutic change, although not necessarily precedes such change, at least from one session to the next. As it is an exploratory study, the results must be interpreted carefully. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)Impact StatementClinical Impact Statement—Question: The current case-study explored the session-by-session relation between emotional processing and therapeutic change in depression. Findings: We observed that (1) a lower intensity of clinical symptoms was associated with the achievement of higher levels of emotional processing during the same session, and (2) the increase in the levels of emotional processing was associated with the change from maladaptive to more adaptive emotions. Meaning: Therefore, (1) the intensity of symptoms in the beginning of a given session may inform the therapist about the clients’ capability to process their emotions, and (2) the level of emotional processing achieved may hint at the gradual change of a client’s depressive scheme. Next Steps: Further research is needed to support these findings.  
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-274
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018
This open access research output is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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